Quantum Technology Has Far Greater Promise than simply Nuclear Security
While the small print of what a quantum computer actually is are quite technical, the important thing to understand is what a quantum computer can do, especially relative to a classical computer like the one within the device on which you’re reading this text. Although there are some good attempts to elucidate how quantum computers work for the overall public, these still largely miss the purpose . for instance, Justin Trudeau gave an honest description of qubits (quantum bits – almost like those and zeros during a classical computer), but he implies that quantum computing will make computers smaller, which isn’t particularly relevant. Since the age of room-sized computers, the drive for increasingly smaller computers, to the purpose where they’re now microscopic, has made processors more powerful and computing less energy-intensive. As quantum computers are unlikely to be viable for consumer use within the near future, their size isn’t really a matter of concern. the 2 key reasons governments are investing in developing quantum computing technologies are quantum cryptography and quantum simulation.
Quantum cryptography has important applications within the distribution of secure information, which has garnered the eye of governments and militaries around the world. the target of quantum cryptography is to mitigate the potential problems of sharing secret information between two parties, like message interception or reliance human components of data sharing networks. Important applications for quantum cryptography are securing information sent over the web and therefore the distribution of nuclear authentication codes.
In the nuclear launch process, “nuclear codes” are wont to establish the identity of the party issuing the launch command. this is often achieved by producing an encryption key and dividing it into two parts. One part is distributed to the president, and therefore the other is given to the launch sites. The distribution of those codes to the launch sites, currently done manually, maybe a potential liability during this system. If another party were to intercept the encryption key and replace the nuclear codes with incorrect codes, then they’re going to have disabled the US’s nuclear launch capability. this type of attack is mentioned as a “man within the middle” attack.
An interesting feature of quantum cryptography is that it offers a way of distribution which will detect digital eavesdropping and interference. this is able to leave the distribution of nuclear codes to require place via a quantum network, where the integrity of the network and authenticity of the message are often ensured by quantum cryptography. The promise of a vulnerability-free channel to disseminate nuclear codes has made quantum cryptography a crucial avenue of research for defense departments within the US and China.
A much smaller reason for interest in quantum cryptography, which is usually the main target of the media, is that the ability to efficiently “crack” standard public-key encryption methods. The secure transfer of data over the web underpins many of important day-to-day tasks, like internet banking and entering a password to login to an internet site. Encryption prevents the various third parties that handle internet traffic from reading personal secure information. Currently, encryption is predicated on “public key” methods and relies on the problem in factorizing numbers into their prime factors. Specifically, the algorithms are built around sub-prime numbers, which are the results of two very large prime numbers multiplied together. Prime factorization a perfect problem because it’s very difficult to seek out the prime factors, but very easy to see if those two numbers multiplied together equal the subprime number.
When the subprime numbers wont to encrypt data increase, the computing power required to crack them increases exponentially. While it’s unlikely that an algorithm run on a classical computer exists which will solve this type of problem within an inexpensive timeframe, quantum algorithms exist that would feasibly “crack” this encryption during a short period of time. However, running these algorithms still requires a sufficiently large quantum computer. While an outsized quantum computer would be quite small, this capability remains well beyond today’s quantum computer demonstrations. For this reason, quantum code-cracking seems unlikely to manifest within the near future.
Quantum simulation is the most far-reaching application for quantum computing, with important applications in chemistry, pharmaceuticals, medicine, and materials science. especially, the efficient simulation of huge molecular systems and reactions has massive implications for designing pharmaceuticals. Quantum simulation makes it possible to verify the effectiveness of the latest drugs or materials quickly and cheaply because it eliminates the necessity to synthesize a physical product for testing. Traditionally, new drugs take years to develop and undergo clinical trials. With a quantum computer, the accurate simulation of thousands of molecular arrangements is often tested as candidates for a replacement drug during a matter of hours or days.
When attempting these simulations on a classical computer, the computing resources required to grow exponentially with the complexity of the molecule. Even for an easy molecular system like caffeine (C8H10N4O2), the quantity of classical memory required to model it can quickly exceed all the matter on earth. a rather bigger molecule, like penicillin (C16H18N2O4S), would require all the matter within the visible universe. A protein like hemoglobin (C2952H4664O832N812S8Fe4) is thus comparatively gigantic and decidedly impossible to simulate on a classical computer. Fundamentally, this is often a drag of trying to represent a quantum system using classical memory. If, instead, a quantum computer is employed to represent and simulate the molecule, exponentially fewer information science operations are required to realize its result.
All of those high-impact applications mean that control and leadership of quantum computing technology will have significant economic implications over the approaching decades. Quantum computing offers a chance to dramatically increase the scientific capacities of countries. it’s likely that a “Quantum Silicon Valley” will emerge because the best minds within the industry seek the corporate of 1 another. Given the present lurch toward isolationism, it’s going to be that a rustic must either be within the quantum race now and reap the advantages later or be behind for many years to return.
While the quantum encryption and therefore the breaking of public-key encryptions have seen the best interest from a security-centric view and have garnered an excellent deal of state attention, the exciting near-term possibilities of quantum technologies dwell quantum simulation. With a possible year-long await a viable vaccine to emerge from the oversaturated field of candidates to ease the coronavirus pandemic, the potential nuclear security benefits of quantum technology may pale as compared to the number of lives which will be saved with quantum simulation.